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Cape technikon closes campuses after violent protests and arson

Cape technikon closes campuses after violent protests and arson
CPUT has closed its doors, suspended classes and asked students to vacate the premises because of ongoing violence. Protesters torched two vehicles and security offices, also damaging a bookstore. (Photo: Xabiso Mkhabela)

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology has closed its campuses, postponed an Open Day scheduled for Saturday, 13 May and cancelled all its operations and activities after violent protests. However, staff must continue to work remotely.

After two buildings were set on fire this week, allegedly by protesting students in Bellville and Wellington, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) has closed its campuses.

When students began demonstrating on Monday, 8 May, tensions rose quickly. That evening, a fire broke out in a cleaning supply room on the Bellville campus, while a recreational area at the Wellington campus was set on fire.

cput violence

Damage and debris at CPUT after protests. The technikon has closed its doors, suspended classes and asked students to vacate the premises. (Photo: Xabiso Mkhabela)

CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley said student grievances were related to a new National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding condition that states that any student studying for fewer than 60 course credits is no longer eligible for lodging, living and transportation allowances. This affects about 822 CPUT students.

CPUT management said that they understood students’ frustrations and would continue to work with NSFAS and student leadership.

Kansley told Daily Maverick: “We were supposed to have a mass meeting with students on Wednesday. It didn’t take place because of logistics. Wednesday was very calm on campus. But on Thursday we saw the damage caused by fires at our campuses.

“Our management met at midnight virtually on Wednesday and decided to shut down the campus. We shut down all campuses first thing on Thursday morning.”

cput violence

Damage caused by protesters at CPUT. (Photo: Xabiso Mkhabela)

Kansley said there would be no academic activity on campus and residences would close. From Friday, CPUT will provide transportation for students to return home, either to the Eastern or Northern Cape. All residents must leave by Friday, 12 May.

Management, she underlined, would be tough this time. “Our policy is zero tolerance for this type of behaviour.”

The students’ protests were held despite an order granted by the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town on Wednesday in favour of CPUT. 

In terms of the order, all CPUT students are interdicted from conducting themselves unlawfully on the CPUT’s campuses.

cput violence

Barrier tape at CPUT after it closed its doors because of violent protests. (Photo: Xabiso Mkhabela)

Students were also interdicted from barricading entrances to CPUT campuses and residences, including any off-campus buildings, damaging or vandalising CPUT immovable properties, and intimidating, harassing, threatening or harming CPUT’s students or employees or any person at CPUT’s campuses. The interdict is valid for CPUT campuses in Bellville, District Six, Mowbray, Wellington Campus and Granger Bay.

CPUT management said in a statement: “The institution has successfully applied for and been granted an interim court order interdicting the disruption of any university activities, unlawful conduct including violence, intimidation, incitement and damage to CPUT property and vehicles. Violation of this order is a criminal offence and all transgressors will be dealt with accordingly.”

The CPUT SRC distanced itself from the mayhem at CPUT’s campuses.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi said about 200 students were involved in the protests.

Members of the SAPS are patrolling the campuses. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ian Steven says:

    How many hours of lectures per week do 60 credits entail?

    • Karin Swart says:

      The credits are attached to a subject, not the number of lectures. The minimum credits in our department (IT) is 10 for a subject that has only 2 45-minute periods a week. A 20 credits-bearing subject has between 4 and 6 45-minute periods per week.
      At a guess, I would say that the NSFAS decision is to give accommodation preference to students who are studying a full complement of subjects (6 – 10) and not just 1 or 2. The point is that it was a NSFAS decision, not a CPUT decision; they should go and protest at the NSFAS offices.

  • Andrew Martin says:

    Completely unacceptable behaviour.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    Why is it that people in South Africa who have grievances destroy the facilities that are giving them an opportunity to advance their position in society? It defies logic.

  • Margaret Jensen says:

    The same things occurred at NMU in Gqeberha this week.
    There were some arrests but then the arson events took place.
    Unacceptable behaviour!!!

  • John Walton Gardiner says:

    “We were supposed to have a mass meeting with students on Wednesday. It didn’t take place because of logistics”
    Logistics? If the students were served up this, sans gravy – as we DM readers were – might they have construed it as obfuscation or, more frustratingly, as facetiousness?
    Vincent would no doubt be aware that his now expanding upon these”logistics” could place CPUT management in a different light. It should have been done at the time of writing.

    • John Walton Gardiner says:

      Expanded one way, CPUT management is placed in the harsh spotlight of “blame”.
      Expanded another, CPUT management basks in the light of the exemplary.
      Whichever, the throwaway ‘logistics” becomes essential.
      Tell us more, DM. Neither the students nor the CPUT management should be wronged because you looked away.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    In order to demand the right to learn I destroy the only possibility I have of doing so.

    I literally cry for the destructive futility of what these students are doing.

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